November 19, 2021 - Superintendent's Update


AAPS lead, care, inspire graphicFriday, November 19, 2021

Hello AAPS Students and Parents, Teachers, Staff and Community,

Today, we will complete twelve weeks, one-third of this 2021-22 school year; our students and staff are enjoying learning together in our schools. We are thankful for the ongoing exemplary work of our AAPS students, our school and district teams, our parents and the community. 

As we continue to face many challenges as we enter Thanksgiving week, our AAPS community has been contemplating the act of gratitude. Please enjoy this video highlighting some of what students and staff are most grateful for this school year.

We have significant concerns around the spike in COVID cases we are experiencing in the AAPS this week. In this message, I will share the trends in current AAPS COVID-19 data and ask for your help in taking critical next steps to ensure our shared priority: to maintain our schools as healthy and safe places for our students and staff to gather and learn each day. 

Our priority of health and safety and our work to maintain school environments as low risk as possible for COVID-19 transmission continues as we face this current fall COVID-19 surge. 

1. Overall increase in COVID-19 cases in the AAPS

Since last Friday, we have experienced an unprecedented, widespread spike in student and staff/contractor cases impacting almost every school in the district. Our weekly AAPS COVID-19 Case Dashboard, updated today, reports 76 cases with direct impact in 28 schools and district locations. Unfortunately, our AAPS experience reflects the trend in rising case rates for Washtenaw County and Michigan.

2. COVID-19 cases among students ages 5 to 11 in the AAPS

Approximately 40% of AAPS COVID-19 cases occurred among students 5 to 11 years of age this week. This AAPS data reflects the concerning high numbers in Washtenaw County, with rising COVID cases among 5 to 11-year-olds reported by the Washtenaw County Health Department yesterday at 507.5 cases per 100,000.

We are also concerned about the increase in pediatric hospitalizations, now reported at numbers near the pandemic peak, and very sadly, while we cannot share details, we have observed this dynamic in the AAPS as well. 

3. COVID-19 cases among AAPS staff 

Approximately one-third (24) of AAPS COVID-19 cases occurred among our staff this week; this represents a significant increase, three times that of the previous week (8) and more than double of any prior week during the pandemic. 

Our AAPS staff maintains high vaccination rates; as a result, most of these staff cases represent breakthrough COVID-19 cases. 

We remain concerned about the health of our AAPS staff; it is critical that all staff, and as many others as possible in our community, obtain COVID-19 booster vaccinations as soon as possible. 

Next Steps:

Please prioritize getting COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters

Vaccination remains our most effective tool in overcoming this COVID-19 virus.  Ann Arbor Public Schools is partnering with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to offer COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics to AAPS to students 5 to 18 years of age. 

The next vaccine clinic is Tuesday, November 23rd, at Pioneer High School. Plenty of space is available for students 5 to 18 years of age.  Booster doses for AAPS staff and contractors will also be available during the November 23 clinic by appointment only. More information for staff booster appointments will be sent in a separate communication to staff. 

These school-based vaccination clinics are just one of many ways for students to receive the vaccine. The Washtenaw County Health Department, pediatricians/doctors’ offices and local pharmacies also have vaccines available for students.

The Food and Drug Administration authorized booster shots of both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for everyone 18 and older today. COVID-19 booster vaccines are widely available in our Ann Arbor community. 

Despite a high vaccination rate among AAPS staff, we observe that our schools are directly impacted by individuals who remain unvaccinated and a correspondingly high rate of COVID transmission continuing in the Ann Arbor community. Understandably, the impact of the current COVID-19 surge in our community challenges every part of our school district operation. 

Please observe COVID-19 health practices during Thanksgiving week 

Today, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has released new social gathering guidelines to reduce risks of social gatherings and COVID-19. 

The CDC has shared Safer Ways to Celebrate Holidays, ways to enjoy holiday traditions and protect your health, as well as guidance on Activities, Gatherings & Holidays. 

Of course, it is always an important COVID health habit to take precautions if traveling, including testing after return.  

During the coming days, obtaining vaccinations and boosters for as many individuals as possible and practicing COVID-19 health precautions during Thanksgiving week will support our strong and healthy return to in-school learning, beginning on Monday, November 29th. 

In the positive actions and steps we each take every day, we serve as role models of perseverance during difficult times for our children who are observing; we demonstrate our care and commitment to our children, to each other, to our Ann Arbor community and to our shared future. 

We are deeply grateful for the opportunity to care for and serve each of our AAPS students. We are so grateful to have our students and team in school, learning together this fall. We are grateful for the support of our parents and the Ann Arbor community. 

Thank you for your partnership and support of all our students and of the Ann Arbor Public Schools.  I wish you a healthy and peaceful Thanksgiving. 

Sincerely, 

Jeanice K. Swift
Superintendent of Schools
Ann Arbor Public Schools